Judge orders 3 off sex offender registry

Three men who moved to Indiana and were required to put their names on the state’s sex offender registry are likely to win their lawsuit that claims they wouldn’t face that requirement had they lived in Indiana all their lives, a judge ruled, ordering their names removed.

Judge Richard Young last week ruled in favor of Brian Hope, Gary Snider and Joseph Standish, holding they are likely to prevail in their federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Young granted a preliminary injunction barring authorities from enforcing the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act against the plaintiffs.

The suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argues that SORA’s application to them violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and implicates the right to travel, and Young found the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on those claims. He did not reach the plaintiffs’ ex post facto argument.

Based on their crimes, the Department of Correction determined each plaintiff was an offender against children and a serious sex offender, and that Snider and Standish qualified as sexually violent predators.

Indiana’s Sex Offender Registry dates to 1994, and each of the plaintiffs’ convictions came prior to the registry’s enactment, or was an offense that didn’t require reporting at the time of conviction. Young wrote that had the plaintiffs not crossed state lines, they would not be required to register under Wallace v. State, 905 N.E.2d 371 (Ind. 2009), which prohibited the application of SORA to offenses predating the registry.

Hope was convicted of an Indiana offense and the other two plaintiffs were convicted in Michigan. After Hope left the state and returned, and the other two men moved to the state, they were told they would have to register as sex offenders for life. Young rejected the Department of Correction’s argument that finding for the plaintiffs would make Indiana a “safe haven” for sex offenders.

“Defendants’ proposed justification — preventing persons from relocating to Indiana in order to avoid registration requirements — has absolutely no applicability to (plaintiffs).  SORA is therefore overbroad with respect to this interest,” Young wrote.  
“When the Plaintiffs arrived in Indiana they were not afforded the same status as persons who had resided in Indiana all along. As a result of the DOC’s policies, long-term Indiana residents who have never travelled out of state are treated differently than new Indiana residents. This differential treatment offends the fundamental right to travel,” he wrote.

“Plaintiffs have a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Equal Protection and right-to-travel claims.”

The case is Brian Hope et al. v. Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, et al., 1:16-cv-02865.

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